In a city that’s faced so much hardship lately, it felt like Charlotte needed a breezy Carolina spring evening with nothing to do but sway and sing to some good music.
If the city’s weather gods were going to be on their best behavior at PNC Pavilion, it was going to be for Bob Seger — the hero we didn’t even know we needed.
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band took the stage on Thursday night as part of their Travelin’ Man Farewell Tour, a celebration of almost 50 years of good music. First, Grand Funk Railroad opened to a roaring crowd, then happy-go-tipsy fans scrambled for one more beer.
Even a pre-recorded “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crowe Medicine Show turned into a boisterous sing-along . When the song cut off halfway through and the stage lights came on, it was time for a show. If the crowd had been excited, they were over the moon for Seger. It would be that way for the next two hours.
This was a perfect evening under the stars, with zero disappointments as Seger, 74, exerted the effort of a 20-something superstar. From the beginning, “Shakedown” and “Still the Same” set the stage, followed by a magical performance of “Mainstreet,” the song Seger wrote when he was 16 years old, looking through club windows because he was too young to get in. The smart phones were out, video mode activated — these were moments to remember.
‘Like A Rock’
The musical interludes were as exciting as the lyrical moments, with saxophone by Alto Reed and lead guitarist Rob McNelley performing powerful solos. “Old Time Rock & Roll,” “The Fire Inside” and “Come to Papa” kept the crowd alive. Actually, the whole night kept the crowd alive, even in the moments where some needed to sit a spell — short breaks for sore feet only.
A woman dropped her cigarettes while walking to her seat. When I chased her down and tapped her on the shoulder to hand them to her, she barely noticed me — she was looking at him. She and everyone else couldn’t take their eyes off of Seger, a silver-headed child-at heart, with a black sweatband practically covering his eyes and a glistening brow as he danced all over the stage. When he leaned back, guitar in hand, head thrown back and huge smile on, it was unforgettable.
His mother’s favorite song he ever wrote, “We Got Tonight” was endearing and soft, with Seger seated at the piano. “Like a Rock,” seen live, was no longer a corny Chevy commercial from the ’90s — instead, it became a nostalgic tale of time gone by.
Later, he performed a version of “Forever Young”, written by Bob Dylan, who he called the “Mount Everest of songwriters.” He dedicated it to his friend, Glen Frey of the Eagles, and accompanying was a photo montage of Frey and other stars lost along the way: Chuck Berry, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Leonard Cohen.
“Ramblin Gambling Man” was the perfect follow, with Seger reminding us that Frey was a big part of the song:
“For 51 years, you’ve been hearing him sing backup on this song,” Seger told the crowd. The show ended with two encores for a total five extra, each one better than the last. “Against The Wind,” was powerful and strong. After “Hollywood Nights,” he flung his sweatband into the crowd.
Was this the end? No way. He came back on stage — boasting an identical sweatband, again almost covering his eyes.
“My brother lived in Salisbury for 20 years. I came down here a bunch. I’m very familiar with this area,” he said, as he launched into “Night Moves.”
Then, time for one more, “Rock and Roll Never Forgets,” with a tweak to the opening lyrics to remind us of how long he’s been in our lives: “So you’re a little bit older / And a lot less bolder than you used to be / So you used to shake ‘em down / But now you stop and think about your dignity / So now sweet 16’s turned 74,” (instead of 31).” Then, he dramatically bent over in laughter, almost in disbelief himself — giving a reminder to us all that age is just a number.